Ep 9: Reproductive Yoga and Mindfulness with Dalia Sabari
Fertility Forward Episode 9
Today on the show we welcome Dalia Sabari. Dalia is a certified yoga instructor with a specialty in women’s health. Dalia discovered yoga in 2011 when having difficulty conceiving. Since then, yoga has become her passion and a tool to help keep her clients healthy, mindful and strong. When teaching, Dalia focuses on a deep mind-body connection as well as a physical and mental well being. Her intention with teaching her students is to impart a deep, mind-body connection as well as physical and mental well-being.
Rena: Hi everyone! We are Rena and Dara and welcome to Fertility Forward. We are part of the wellness team at RMA of New York, a fertility clinic affiliated with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Our Fertility Forward podcast brings together advice for medical professionals, mental health specialists, wellness experts, and patients because knowledge is power and you are your own best advocate.
Rena: Dalia Sabari is a certified yoga instructor with a specialty in women's health. She uses yoga as a tool to help keep women healthy, mindful and strong. Her intention when teaching her students is to impart a deep mind body connection as well as a physical and mental wellbeing. Support, love, and a sense of humor are weaved into every class Dalia teaches. In this episode, we talk with Dalia about what, exactly, reproductive yoga is, the importance of mindfulness and how to keep up with a physical practice while trying to conceive. We're so excited to welcome today reproductive yoga instructor Dalia Sabari. Thank you so much for coming on for Fertility Forward.
Dalia: Thank you so much for having me. I’m very excited to be here.
Rena: So, do you want to start it and tell us exactly what is a reproductive yoga instructor
Dara: Never heard of that
Dalia: Yeah, it's a really good question. Most people really have, and it's kind of a little niche of yoga that I've slowly started to create, among many trainings that I've done. So, basically a reproductive yoga instructor works through the whole gamut of kind of a woman's fertility. So I worked with women trying to get pregnant so either naturally or while undergoing fertility treatments. I worked with women while they're pregnant, to gear them up for labor and delivery and all that kind of good stuff and then postnatal, so it’s also kind of getting back in shape or kind of just learning to honor your new body after having a baby and that kind of stuff. And then it seems like that sequence kind of goes in a nice cyclical circle. I've even been dula for a few of my clients which is really amazing.
Dara: How did you get into that?
Dalia: Yeah it kind of organically has flown in that direction. So basically it just takes the focus of a yoga practice into like a woman's fertility journey throughout her life, so also discussing kind of menopausal stuff as well. But really mainly, what I focus on is fertility, prenatal and postnatal.
Rena: Ok, so what kind of training do you do to get into that?
Dalia: So you initially start with your 200 hour yoga teacher training, which is what everybody kind of does in order to kind of just enter the world of yoga. And then I moved into a prenatal training, which happened to the Prenatal Yoga Center on the Upper West Side. And I also kind of mentored under a teacher Tracey Jim Spencer, who became kind of like my mentor and my guidance through fertility. And she was teaching fertility classes throughout the city, which is how I kind of found fertility yoga initially. And she is, well, was the fertility yoga teacher over at NYU. So as I started to finish my training, Tracy was kind of looking to move on to something else, and it was just kind of perfect timing. I kind of slid in to take over some of Tracy's classes. Moved in to become the NYU yoga teacher and it's just kind of taken off from there.
Dara: Yeah, that’s great
Dalia: Yeah, it was really amazing. It was like I always have this kind of secret dream, and then it was kind of just waiting for me to just go and get it.
Rena: The universe and stars aligned.
Dara: So it evolved. So it started off as a basic yoga. And then you're there.
Dalia: Yeah, well, it started off as basic yoga just because that's where I had to get my initial training. But always, the dream was always to be in the fertility world to bring yoga to fertility space.
Rena: Wow and is that because you had some tie to that yourself or you were just interested in it?
Dalia: Yeah, 100 percent. What really brought me to yoga. It wasn't like a lot of yoga teachers you'll speak to will have, like a gymnastics background or dancers background and kind of naturally flowed into like this yoga teacher. And that type of career, however I was not flexible, I was not athletic.
Dara: Which do you have to be?
Dalia: Absolutely, and that's what I'm trying to kind of get to.
Rena: I kinda want to ask you to stand up and touch your toes.
Dalia: We can do that later. So many yoga classes that I had kind of dipped into into my twenties just felt like, Oh, this doesn't work for me like I'm so far from where these teachers want me to be, and it was hard for me to kind of wrap my head around yoga. But when I was trying to conceive, my first daughter I was having a lot of trouble, and I was really finding myself in a space that I just was really doing a lot of self loathing because I was feeling my body had deceived me. And obviously, as a woman in our society, it's really easy to get to that place of hating your body And it resulted in me kind of really having a bad relationship with myself and having that kind of pour out into relationships outside, you know, because it all starts from the inside. So hurting my relationship with my partner, hurting relationships with friends who were conceiving and having children. I just was not really loving myself. So I kind of found Google infertility yoga, and there was a class around the corner from my apartment, and I went, and I started to just kind of learn what yoga was about beyond, like the Equinox class of burning calories and sweating it out and touching your toes and how it started to kind of change me, teach me how to love myself
Dara: So that mental aspect of it more?
Dalia: The mental aspect of it started to click. And I started to really change my view on myself, on my body and in my journey and from there I was kind of hooked
Dara: For myself, I don't know much about yoga. I want to learn, but in terms of also training, I know there's, I’ve heard there’s so many different types. And I'm sure you've been trained in many varieties is there one specific training that we focus on with fertility? Or is it something, or do you take little pieces from all different backgrounds and kind of meld it in together?
Dalia: Yes, so it’s a really good question.There really isn't right now a fertility training that's fully certified with all this kind of good stuff. Hopefully, we’ll get there. I mean, yoga was developed for men by 16 year old boys
Dara: Was it really?
Dalia: Hundreds and hundred of years ago yeah. So to bring it into the women's fertility world it has taken a long time, and we still need time to kind of bring this out as well as yoga, being something that you really have to be patient with yourself and work towards. So it's not. It's not an easy journey to always go on, so it takes someone who's open to it. Your question was? I lost track.
Dara: The different types. So I know that fast paced ones where you sweat there's a lot more the mental or the breathing techniques
Dalia: 100%. So there's many different modalities in yoga. The main thing to understand is, all of it kind of is guided to lead you towards an enlightened state of meditation. So whatever physical form of hatha yoga, so hatha basically is the physical form of the practice of yoga. Yoga has eight limbs, so there's many different ways to achieve
Rena: So is hatha the umbrella kinda?
Dalia: So hatha basically means the physical form of the asanas, the postures. So it's the practice of the postures basically.
Rena: Oh and then you would have, like Ashtanga or Bikram under hatha?
Dalia: Right. And then you'll have something like Vinyasa, which will be the heated, flowy type of yoga that will kind of get you burning calories and feeling, you know, energized. So there's lots of wonderful different types of yoga. For me, I went straight to a very basic hatha vinyasa practice for my 200 hour ‘cause that's kind of where I was coming from. And then I moved into a prenatal training. And then the fertility stuff came on the side by kind of mentoring and reading tons of books and doing tons of research and then kind of bringing it into my own life and applying it so it is kind of a melting pot of different forms. I remember I was teaching a couple prenatal yoga, so I had the wife was my client, but the husband wanted to join one night and we're like, all right? Yeah, sure, No problem. So he came in and we were like, but we're doing prenatal yoga. There's no way to kind of separate this. He was doing it, he was moving his hips and he was getting into it and he was like I f--king love this! And I was like, this is awesome, you know? And I was like you know what? There's so many ways we kind of label things, but to feel good in your body, everyone just wants to do that. So that was kind of the time
where I realized, you know, prenatal yoga doesn't have to be just, like, prenatal yoga. There are things in there that everyone really loves. So it kind of all kind of came together.
Dara: I'll tell you personally, I like the shavasana at the end. I feel like the one way that I will go to a yoga class if there's a shavasana which, for listeners who don't know anything about yoga, which I didn't know in the past, it's like that resting period at the end like the meditative lying down. Nothing really physical.
Rena: I'm gonna get you that T-shirt that says I'm in it for the shavasana.
Dara: I am totally only in it for the shavasana. Maybe, maybe not, but I'm assuming that's probably part of the end.
Dalai: So, yes, it's always included. Shavasana at the end of a practice. Everyone loves their shavasanas, really. But it's a really important part of the practice because it's what's gonna kind of set you up to feel energized and not like you were fully depleted on your mat and also give you time kind of towards a meditative state of breathing and that kind of stuff. I don't my husband will only practice shavasana
Dara: But its interesting
Rena: But I think that's so important, both Dara and I I know are both big into meditation and taking that and I always encourage my patients to take that time to really center yourself, be in the moment be in the present, So I think you know, it's totally okay to just be in it for the shavasana.
Dara: But it's interesting, because before I was into meditation, I couldn't understand the shavasana. I was a typical New Yorker. Oh I gotta go. You know the stretch time I always have to leave.
Rena: Same when I first started yoga I left before shavasana. I was like alright I’m out I’m done.
Dara: We lost how many years of the shavasana which is so important. So for listeners, especially for people going through fertility treatments or the fertility process, the shavasana is important. It's time for yourself. I mean, the whole
Rena: Just to be present.
Dara: The whole yoga session I'm sure is important but that shavasana at the end, I'm telling you, you guys won't regret it.
Dalia: As a teacher I really try to tell people we built up to this pose. Shavasana is a posture, and we did all of this to get here, so enjoy it. But yes, working with New Yorkers, a lot of Type A personalities. Everybody's got to get somewhere I've had many clients who have been like I can't do this, and it's taken them time to learn to appreciate and enjoy just stopping for a moment, and taking the present in. It is such a gift but to a lot of people, it seems impossible. So one of the things that I always tell my clients whether you're going through fertility treatments or not, you must move because if you expect yourself to come down to like a meditative state or that shavasana, that final resting pose, you can't get down there if, like your neurons are firing and your head is going and you have to physically release some tension, too, because the body keeps the score right. So I think it takes time to realize that through releasing tension in my body and giving myself time to do the physical stuff. That's how I'll find my way towards shavasana and be able to kind of sit and withstand it.
Rena: I love that. Now I have a question that you so you touched upon you know when you were going through fertility not feeling good in your body and I know I certainly felt that way. I was really in a part of a place of, you know, hating my body, feeling so uncomfortable, someone who's really big into exercise and working out. You know, having that taken away from me, I found that the most difficult part of the process. And I know a lot of my patients that you know, I’ll send over your way or people that say, you know, I can't take this not being able to exercise, I say okay, let me refer you to Dahlia. She will help you move. So now I’m very curious how do you help them move if they're in the process of stimming, you know, meaning in the injection process. Like, what does that look like
Dalia: Yeah, So it's a really it’s a really important part of getting people to understand, cause I think a lot of people hold off. I'm coming to a fertility session because they're so concerned about the movement. And when I do have somebody who the movement iss so nerve wracking will actually bring them more tension we definitely always start much slower. But the wonderful part about fertility yoga is that we have I’ve studied the postures very, very carefully, and there are definitely some as simple as down dog that we will not practice.
Dara: That's what I want to ask.
Rena: Right or twisting right?
Dalia: Yeah. So the main concern is that while stimming, your ovaries are kind of going on the size of an almond to the size of a plum, and they're just hanging on that really delicate fallopian tube. And we don't want to do anything that kind of can shift them or adjust them or change their stability. So something like down dog, when you're kind of inverted and you're tipping the hips, that's really dangerous. But it's very easy to have a full yoga practice, including your chaturangas, your deep push ups, your chair pose...
Rena: You would have changed my life.
Dara: Where were you? And I get the question, you know I’m speaking about food people, I guess, assume that food and exercise go hand in hand, which, yes, I think it's part of a lifestyle a healthy lifestyle. But my specialty is definitely not in exercise, and I never know the first place to start. I usually say no twisting, no jumping up and down. But I guess my assumption was like the basis of yoga is downward dog. So if you can’t do downward dog how can you do yoga and that's great to hear.
Dalia: No absolutely. You can have a completely full practice where you are sweating and warm deep into your stimming and you know fully get what you need exercise wise, although I do find as I work with clients through kind of their full cycle. As you kind of get really close to retrieval, things get pretty heavy and sometimes that physical work is not always what you need. It's coming down from it a bit, but if you do need that, it's always possible. So I have clients who come to me and like today I need to rest and I need to figure out how to rest. And then I have clients who come to me and they’re like I'm feeling exhausted. I’m like well, you know what? Maybe we need to rev it up for 15-20 minutes. Get some energy back into you, get you feeling a little more like yourself, and then we can bring it down.
Rena: Oh so sounds like you really tailor your practice to each client's individual needs
Dalia: Yes. 100%. Nobody’s session looks exactly the same because we really want to be careful to be very well aware of your medicinal protocol, be very well aware of your own personal goals and also emotionally and physically what's going on. Like, did you just come from having something happen at work or an argument with your partner? And is this weighing heavy on you? Do you have an injury that's an old one that's nagging you. So it's really important for both me and the client to be very mindful about what is presently happening so that we can cater the session to really meet all your needs. Because just working on a physical practice is not gonna hit everything.
Rena: Sure, I love you combine really the mindfulness and the physical. I think you know that's so important.
Dara: That really is so important. And in terms of class schedules, is it a group class? Do you typically do meet with people one on one or maybe a combination of the two.
Dalia: Yeah, so, I now, currently working towards maybe starting some group classes up again. But I'm currently just seeing people one on one, which I think is so much more effective and important because like I said, everybody’s session is tailored to what they need, and everybody needs something else.
Rena: Sure, and I’d imagine you’re kind of also part therapist too You know one on one with people.
Dalia: Yeah I mean, naturally, we always develop a really nice relationship with my clients, and always the first 10 to 15 minutes of every session is talk therapy. It just is because it's a safe place to get stuff out. I'm kind of like this safe space to, you know, inform me about what the last doctor's appointment was, what the blood work said. There's no connection to the outside world. It's between me and the client. So definitely I always like to tell people just know that this is more than just movement, exercise. This is a therapeutic practice.
Dara: What a great asset for people to have to have that chance too, you know, help their heart, help their brain help their mood,
Rena: Body, minds. I love it.
Dara: Super important.
Dalia: It’s wonderful but you have to put the work and you have to be willing to say, I'm gonna give this a try and know that there's going to be postures that are not comfortable. I know that I'm gonna kind of bring up things that maybe I've been jamming down. So it's definitely when I have my clients who I've kind of turned into yogis. It's the biggest blessing because I see such change in them
Rena: Oh isn’t that so magical.
Dalia: Yeah, it is. It's really special.
Dara: So what are some of the highlights of what you do?What do you really enjoy doing from a day to day basis.
Dalia: Yeah, I think the best part about what I do is that I'm able to be a helping hand and a shoulder to lean on through all these different journeys And its a really honorable place to be in when you're kind of a confidante and a friend and a helper. And you know that every day you're going to work and you're helping people. You're helping change people and their stories into something better. I feel like yoga had changed the trajectory of my own story. It had taken this infertility which had, like, crumbled and destroyed me on and it allowed me to build myself back up and like who I am better after I dealt with my infertility and I hope to kind of work with people to change the trajectories of their stories. Help them learn more about themselves gain healthier coping mechanisms and when I see those things happen, it's like the magical unicorn that kind of appears. And you're like, Yes, it's here. We're getting it. It's all connecting, and we're sharing this wonderful bond of seeing how yoga can really can change your life.
Dara: I was speaking to Rena before that we’re very lucky that we do we do something in our field that we absolutely love. And it's very rare that, you know, you like your job and like the people you work with and we're very fortunate I think, in this field to be able to help other people and enjoy doing it.
Rena: And I think you know, the three of us have something in common between nutrition, mental health and yoga - we all need people who are willing to do the work and open to the process because, you know, at least I know in my own practice if someone's not open to the process, I can't do much. You know, they have to be open they have to be ready. And so it's really getting people that are open and ready. And usually if someone's walking through the door, it means they are ready to do the work.
Dara: Or at least open-minded to hearing more about it
Dalia: Yeah to explore a different modality which is awesome.
Rena: It sounds like you’re so empathic and caring. Do you find that you also get empathic burnout?
Dalia: Yeah so it was interesting when you said kind of like ‘What's your favorite part?’ cause it's also kind of the hardest part too, kind of carrying people’s stories and the weight of it, you know, also waiting on to hear if it was good news or bad news. You know, this cycle, it's heavy, and it also kind of keeps me in the space of even being aware of my own journey and how that affected me and bringing things back up and I have to be kind of very mindful about you know, where I can keep myself in a healthy mind set while dealing still with my own feelings about my own from fertility and holding up space for other people. So it is the best part being part of someone’s journey but it is also it is difficult. It is a challenge. Yeah,
Dara: SO besides yoga, what's your other outlet to help de-stress decompress?
Rena: What's your self-care?
Dalia: Yeah, it's really interesting.
Rena: Yoga’s most people’s selfcare.
Dalia: Yeah, So yoga is really part of my own routine and for exercise, physical fitness and, of course, the shavasana part is really important. And then, of course, meditation alongside of it. So I do a lot of that and then I’m a mother too so my time is really taken up quickly after that.
Dara: How old is your little one?
Dalia: I have a six and a four year old. But really a good bath at the end of the night is like the best thing I can offer myself getting off my feet soaking in some nice, amazing bubbly water. And I just like, feel like, ok wash the day off and kind of a rise out of that bath a little more like myself.
Dara: And your version of shavasana in water.
Dalia: Totally. And I say that to people all the time. Like shavasana doesn't have to look like the way I padded you up in blankets and blocks you know, and I think also another thing to mention is there was always questions like, What's the best posture to do while trying to conceive? And it's like although the postures are amazing and wonderful, the most important part of kind of getting through your fertility journey and the best way possible is to lower your stress levels. So whatever it is for you that helps lower your stress levels. Like if you didn't connect to the yoga practice. Totally fine. If taking a bath with essential oils does it for you then go home and do it.
Dara: So that means something different for every single person?
Dalia: Totally. And I'm totally open and accepting of that that you know yoga might not always be the answer for people. But when you give it a chance, I find very few people don't come back.
Dara: I have to say you’ve convinced me because I have always feared yoga. And then you said something that resonated with me was that you know, a lot of times when you're struggling with something internally, that's when you're afraid. I mean, I'm definitely I was afraid of yoga because of the you know, I thought you had to be very limber and you have to be very patient and you kind of have to, you know, breathe through something that was a little bit challenging. But taking it a different perspective, I think can really make you appreciate it and enjoy it a little bit more. So you've convinced me.
Dalia: Sure. Yeah.
Rena: I love it. And I think, Yeah, I started at yoga the same way you did. I could barely touch my toes. I would leave before shavasana. And usually I tell a tea - I make up some excuse and tell the teacher I gotta leave early.
Dalia: Is that what my clients are doing when I was teaching classes? Like were they just secretly trying to skip out on shavasana?
Rena: Maybe. But now, it’s like, crap I wish I could have shavasana for 30 seconds
Dalia: You know there’s a lot of, like wisdom that comes with age and more responsibility. And then you realize, like, wow, actually taking a break and breathing feels really good.
Rena: Yeah, especially in New York City.
Rena: It’s so hard to slow down here.
Dara: So with that, we always like to cap off our talks with some gratitude talk discussion. So we like to go around and let everyone know what we're grateful for today or at this moment.
Dalia: That's a good question.
Dara: So, Dalia?
Dara: What are you grateful for?
Dalia: Let me think about it. Well, I have to seem very grateful for meeting Rena. I know we met today, which I'm very grateful for meeting you, but meeting you really opened up a lot of doors into meeting other people and getting involved in the office here, So I was thinking, like just how awesome that was. That like an email went out like 6 months ago or something and we made that connection. I’m really grateful for that. And I was just thinking like, as I kind of looked back on my journey just how grateful I am for the way everything kind of worked and how I kind of was able to go with the flow and, you know,
Dara: Such yoga talk I love it.
Dalia: Yeah, sorry, I'm trying to pinpoint something but I’m like it's everything. It's being here. It's breathing.
Rena: I think, you know, i’m grateful also for people like Dalia being able to refer my patients to you being able to you know, when they come to me struggling and you know, like I said, I can empathize with them so much I think the hardest part for me for the journey as someone who is a pretty extreme athlete was being, you know, on exercise restriction and being able to tell other people like that look, let me send you to Dahlia. She'll work with you, she’ll help you move. You can sweat, you know she's a great she'll help you cope and being able to have someone like that. I wish I had had you when I was going through it. You know, I think most of my family and friends wish I had had you as well.
Dalia: You’re too sweet.
Rena: So that's gonna be my gratitude for today.
Dara: How nice. Well to couple what both of you said just the idea of having a mindfulness practice. I now I want to try yoga again with you, but I started
Dalia: Yeah you have to be careful like don't just jump into any Equinox class because then you'll be like everything Dalia said wasn't true.
Dara: I feel like it’s like this with anyone that you feel like you have to connect with the person that you're working with. There’s enough dieticians, there enough social workers there’s enough yogis to go around you just have to find that right person and the person that understands you and you could connect. And that could take years, which I feel like I found it today.
Rena: That’s how I felt when I met Dalia the first time. I was like ok i just totally vibe with you i thought we were really aligned.
Dara: But the idea of mindfulness and I started my mindfulness practice in terms of meditation two or three years back, and it really has changed the way I've, you know, seen life and appreciated myself and the importance of taking time for yourself. Just to disconnect from everything and being in the present. And I always tell patients that that It's so important for for you time. And it doesn't have to take that much out of your day whether its 60 seconds, a minute, 30 minutes, an hour or like a good yoga class.
Rena: Self care is not selfish.
Dara: Whenever you have time for, we all don't have an excuse. We can all fit that into our schedule,
Rena: And it makes you better at everything you do. And I think a lot of people feel like it's selfish for self care, but I say, look, it makes you better at all the roles that you need to play a better partner, daughter, sister, friend, parent, whatever it is, it makes you better at that. So in turn you’re serving other people by taking this time for yourself.
Dalia: Yeah. Like I said in the beginning, when I was crumbling under the kind of the pressures of infertility I hated who I was to myself, and then that kind of spread out to everybody else. So it's always got to start here and that's how you kind of pour it out into the world.
Rena: Totally. Your energy shows everything.
Dalia: And there's a little thing we say in yoga, which was interesting how you said kind of getting quiet in your meditation pr in your mindfulness that when you come into this world the very first thing you do as you disconnect from your mother, which is your life source is you take your first breath, you take a big inhale, right. And the last thing we do when we leave this world is we take an exhale.
Rena: That just gave me the chills.
Dalia: So as you kind of disconnect from your life source of your mother and that umbilical cord is cut, your next life source is your breath. So when you kind of stop and take a minute, that's why it feel so good. Because it's where all your energy is coming from. So when you stop, take a minute and you just acknowledge your breathing for five minutes. It can change your whole perspective, it just puts the energy back in. And once you kind of recharge, you can kind of see things a little clearer.
Dara: Dalia, what a perfect way to end this session.
Dalia: Let's do it together: big inhale and let it all go
Rena: And then we'll put it on our social media platforms and website. But for our listeners now, if anyone wants to contact you, how should they get in touch?
Dalia: So my business is called Yotility. So that's Y-O-T-I-L-I-T-Y Yoga plus fertilty. So the website is Yotility.com and you can get all the information I've kind of shared with you guys there and you can email me with any additional questions. So that's kind of the best way to find me. Or you can email me at [email protected] Um, always around through email.
Rena: Okay, and we'll post everything on all our platforms too.
Dalia: Cool! Thank you so much for having me.
Dara: Thank you so much for listening today. And always remember, practice gratitude. Give a little love to someone else and yourself. And remember, you are not alone. Find us on Instagram at fertility underscore forward. And if you're looking for more support, visit us at www.rmany.com and tune in next week for more fertility Forward.